Tricks to the Gluten-Free Diet

in Celiac
Published: August 30, 2010

Here’s a guide to help you sort out what you need to do, from breakfast through to baking and barbecues with friends. No matter how daunting it may seem at the start, following a GF diet can be easy as (gluten-free) pie.

Where does gluten hide?

Gluten can be sneaky. Food ingredients such as modified food starches, various seasonings and hydrolyzed vegetable proteins (cereals or legumes that are broken down by acids or enzymes and used to enhance flavor) may contain gluten – but you may not know it from the ingredients listed on the package.

Health Canada does not currently require manufacturers to list the source of such an ingredient, only the fact that a product contains it, although under proposed new labeling regulations, this will change. For now, if you read something like “modified food starch” with no further details, best put the package back on the shelf or call the manufacturer for more details.

The range of foods to be wary of is vast. They include hot dogs, frozen burgers (meat, chicken and fish), seasoned or dry roasted nuts, cheese spreads, soups, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, pickles, baking powder, canned cake frosting, chocolate bars and regular beer, ale and lager.

And even though a heightened awareness of celiac disease and the growing popularity of GF diets have led some manufacturers to offer more gluten-free products, be sure to check ingredients on labels every time you shop – they can change without warning.

For our list, see Where Gluten Hides

Worry-Free Eats

Here is the good news:  all fruits and vegetables are gluten-free, period. Eat them with abandon. The range is amazing: think apples, melons, pears, plums, grapes, tomatoes, oranges, berries, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and artichokes, which happen to have lots of fibre.

For gluten-free grains, search out rice (whole-grain, not processed), corn, quinoa and amaranth, which was once a staple food of the Aztecs and is high in iron and lysine, an essential amino acid.

Where’s the fiber?

Rice may be nice but many people with celiac disease find their diets do not contain enough fiber. That is why you must favor whole rather than processed grains and eats nuts, seeds and legumes, from peanuts that aren’t dry roasted to lentils, Lima beans and beyond.

For breakfast, arguably the most important meal of the day, try fruit smoothies with milk or yogurt and a bit of flax, cold cereals such as puffed amaranth, corn or rice or hot cereals made from cornmeal, corn or millet, cream of buckwheat, cream of rice or quinoa. Or buy ready-made gluten-free products like toaster waffles, bagels and granola.

Ironing Out the Kinks

If you have celiac disease, you may also suffer from anemia and bone loss because the intestinal villi have problems absorbing iron and calcium. While a strict gluten-free diet should alleviate the situation, make sure to consume at least four servings of low-fat milk products a day and lots of iron-rich foods, including meat, poultry, fish, seafood and legumes.

Consult with your doctor or dietitian about whether or not to take calcium and vitamin D supplements. Also, when buying manufactured foods, check the ingredient list to see if they have been enriched with added vitamins and minerals.

Next: Oats and the Art of GF Baking